Life as We Know It
Pollinating crickets, the longest migration, puffed up toads and more...
- By T.A. Frail, Megan Gambino, Abigail Tucker and Sarah Zielinski
- Smithsonian magazine, March 2010
Name: Alligator mississippiensis, the American alligator.
What’s Old: Gators have been around for 200 million years.
What’s New: Air flows through their lungs in only one direction, delivering oxygen in a continuous loop, according to a University of Utah study.
What Matters: Previously, only birds were known to have “unidirectional” lungs, which deliver oxygen more efficiently than “tidal” lungs, like ours, in which air enters and exits along the same route. The discovery suggests that such lungs evolved much earlier than anyone thought—more than 246 million years ago, in a common ancestor of birds, crocodilians and dinosaurs
“Tracking of Arctic terns Sterna paradisaea reveals longest animal migration,” Carsten Egevang et al., PNAS, January 11, 2010.
“Unidirectional Airflow in the Lungs of Alligators,” C. G. Farmer and Kent Sanders, Science, January 15, 2010.
“Orthoptera, a new order of pollinator,” Claire Micheneau et al., Annals of Botany, January 11, 2010.
“Turgid female toads give males the slip: a new mechanism of female mate choice in the Anura,” Bas Bruning et al., Biology Letters, January 6, 2010.